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The Persistence review: Finally, PSVR gets the horror it deserves – if you can stick it out

Virtual reality seems built for horror: you literally cannot look away. And PSVR feels built for the horror game, allowing for depth and intensity of scares that would never be possible on a traditional screen.

The Persistence not only recognises that fact but has built an entire game around it. You are not only stuck inside of your headset, but also stuck inside of a ship filled with horrifying monsters, too – there's no escape in the real world or the virtual one.

The game's basic premise is that you are stuck on a spaceship, through which you have to travel. But there is an army of monstrous, zombie clones ready to stop you, forcing players to fight them off with a wide variety of weapons and new 3D printed bodies that await you when you die.

The sci-fi spin adds a new twist on the horror games available for the PSVR, as well as an interesting continuation of the kind of sci-fi survival stress so familiar to players of games like Mass Effect.

The actual mechanics of the game will be relatively familiar to anyone who's spent much time inside PSVR, and easy to pick up for anyone who hasn't. The controller does all the traditional stuff – attacking, hiding, and so on – and you can opt to move either by teleporting around to where you're looking or walking in the more traditional way.

The Virtuality Group Arcade Machine Experiences. The 1990s saw huge developments in virtual reality. With the rise of the arcades and arcade games, it was only a matter of time, before developers started coming up with new and exciting concepts and ideas. A company known as The Virtuality Group was at the cutting edge of virtual reality, launching a wide range of arcade games and machines that let either one or a couple of players immerse themselves into amazing 3D visual experiences. This happened in 1991, a year before the movie The Lawnmower Man further introduced the Virtual Reality concept to a wider audience of people.

What sets The Persistence apart, and where it makes the case for being a VR game, is the way that it uses the overwhelming sense of fear throughout the game. The entire setup seems built to terrify you: small spaces, creepy enemies and no escape.

Sometimes, it can get a little much and the game deserves its title – it is almost like it is daring you to stick with it and persist. That's not just the unceasing, creepy, horrifying tone of the game – staying in that virtual world for too long can make you feel a little terrified and claustrophobic – but even the more traditional elements, which force you to keep battling through room after randomly-generated room in a format that can sometimes fluctuate between frustrating and boring.

It relies on a little bit of grinding, too, with plenty of different kinds of gear but plenty of work to actually get hold of them. Taken together, the game can sometimes feel a little like very terrifying hard work – but the fun of it thankfully makes up for all of that.

And at times, the visuals can unfortunately drop from gritty into grainy, with everything looking a little too dark and unclear. (This review was done with the bog-standard PS4, rather than the Pro, which does promise improved performance on the PSVR.)

The VFX-1. We can’t do a list about the history of Virtual Reality and not include the VFX-1. Released in the middle of the 1990s, the VFX-1 system was one of the most capable virtual reality headsets released on the market at the time. With stereoscopic 3D, multi-axis head movement detection and rotation, and the ability to play games that were not truly supported by the system, the VFX-1 was the true Virtual Reality deal at the time. Furthermore, their price tag was relatively cheap compared to other products on the market, coming at a mere $600. However, the VFX-1 was too advanced of a technology and it didn’t really take off. Later on, the company Vuzix that made the glasses was bought by Forte Technologies, which released a more expensive VFX 3D version, but it also didn’t manage to achieve huge success.

But that is more than made up for by the sheer intensity of the scares, as well as the ingenuity of the game's design and execution. Stick it out, and The Persistence could be one of the most intense games in your life.

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